McALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley should brace itself for a $4 billion investment over the next three years, says a top real estate developer in the region.

Zaida Villarreal, commercial director for Keller Williams Realty RGV and a senior partner in Reliance Executive Group, pointed to the establishment of the new UT-Rio Grande Valley and its four-year School of Medicine, SpaceX, the new Mazatlán-to-Matamoros superhighway and increased investment from Mexico nationals moving into the Valley as some of the catalysts for the growth.

“We have been growing enormously and we will continue to grow. Like I tell my clients, the Valley is a paradise. It is the land of opportunities. Any business that you bring here, if you really work at it, you will get results,” Villarreal said.

Zaida Villarreal
Zaida Villarreal

Asked where the $4 billion figure came from, Villarreal said it is being talked about freely within the offices of the Reliance Executive Group at Keller Williams Realty.

“There is a $4 billion investment coming to the Valley, probably within the next three years. These are the numbers we are hearing on my office. Because Keller Williams is No. 1 in the Valley we can gauge the temperature of the economy and this is what we are hearing. It is just too much money,” Villarreal said.

“We are talking about the energy industry. We are talking about SpaceX, where we are going to be another Cape Canaveral. We are expecting a lot of movement in fresh produce due to the new superhighway in Mexico. Companies are calling us from Nogales, Arizona. They want to move here. We need more cold storage for the fresh produce. They whole Valley will benefit. If you want to work, this is your time, this is your land,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal gave an exclusive interview to the Rio Grande Guardian while attending a private gathering of civic, economic development, business and tourism officials representing the cities of McAllen and Tampico at the McAllen Country Club. The mayors, Jim Darling of McAllen and Gustavo Torres Salinas of Tampico, later held a news conference to talk about fostering improved business and commerce between the two cities.

“I can assure you this alliance between McAllen and Tampico is going to be great,” Villarreal said. “We already have a large population from Tampico living in the Rio Grande Valley especially in the Mission area. They are investors who are living here and have businesses as well. Some have sister companies in Tampico. Some of them own very nice restaurants. They are bringing a lot of money to the Valley. That is why the rest of the Valley is not suffering as much as the rest of the state and the nation. Many of the Mexican nationals that come here are doing very well and they are producing all this wealth and giving it back to the Valley. They are producing jobs for the people. It is exciting to see.”

Villarreal said she knows Mayor Torres Salinas well. “I know Gustavo personally. He is one of the best mayors in Tamaulipas. He is hard-working and honest. He is willing to work to do the best for all sides. I believe now is the time to get this relationship going. I was pleased to hear the two mayors talk about a new flight from McAllen to Tampico. Right now we have one from Reynosa to Tampico and Tampico has direct flights to Houston. If we can get one directly to and from McAllen that would be great.”

Villarreal started in real estate 15 years ago, working with McAllen businessman Alonzo Cantu. She said she has a lot of clients from Mexico that want to relocate to the Valley. For example, she said she is currently working with investors from Tampico that want to build a luxury hotel in McAllen. “We need more hotels in McAllen. We have a wonderful convention center that can host expositions but we need more hotels. McAllen has incentives to bring these people in and this is what we are working on.”

Villarreal also pointed to the petroleum industry in the Tampico region and how UTRGV and the planned Texas A&M University can produce engineers for this industry. “Things are going to be changing a lot in Mexico due to the reforms. We need to prepare for this,” she said.

Villarreal said Mexican nationals like to move to the Valley because of the culture and the increased focus on the arts. “It is all about the culture. A lot of the people that are coming here are well-educated. They are wealthy people and they are demanding culture. They want to see good sculpture and good art. They are concerned about quality of life issues. I am pleased to say more people are getting involved in this. They are interested in bringing good artists from around the world. It is a win-win for all sides. The Valley is like being in Mexico. Most of my clients speak English but they feel at home here. All the people here are bilingual and if they are not they are willing to learn. The people in the Valley are very warm. They are beautiful people with beautiful hearts.”

Villarreal’s biographical details are contained on her company’s website. Click here to view the website. The website states boldly that “no one knows commercial real estate in the Rio Grande Valley like Zaida Villarreal does.” The About Us section goes on to say:

“With peerless expertise, an international sphere of professional contacts and an unwavering dedication to integrity and client loyalty, Zaida was the natural choice for Keller Williams Realty RGV when selecting a commercial director for the firm. But in addition to overseeing all the commercial realty at KW, Zaida is ushering a new wave of foreign investment into the area as Senior Partner of Reliance Executive Group.”

In the piece, Villarreal states: “New transportation routes in Mexico are having a huge impact in our industrial real estate industry, which will create a multiplier effect on the Rio Grande Valley’s general economy The massive influx of Mexican investors we’ve seen is only just the beginning, and Reliance at KW is ready to provide them with the myriad of professional services they’ll need when they get here.”

To match potential buyers and sellers with the opportunities they are seeking in South Texas, the website states, Villarreal taps into “a sprawling network of real estate contacts in every major city in Mexico,” such as Reynosa, Monterrey, Mexico City, Ciudad Victoria, Saltillo, Torreón, Toluca and Tampico.

“Clients don’t just come to me looking for a business or home location; they often come looking to start a new life, from their residential needs to an entire new business venture altogether. And so I create one for them. What I do is connect my clients with everything they need to build the life they want here — a great home in a great school district, a warehouse facility for imports and exports close to the border, and income producing properties that can generate additional passive income. My team and I are equipped to meet any request,” Villarreal states, in Reliance Executive Group’s About Us section.

Villarreal’s “deep awareness of the local market is rooted in decades of experience working with the region’s top property developers, but her renowned reputation is built on years of serving her clients’ interests as if they were her own,” the About Us section states.

“I care about my clients because they become my friends,” Villarreal says, on the About Us page. “I fight for them. I negotiate as if it were my own money on the line. And I put them in touch with professionals I trust to provide them with the vital services they’ll need — an attorney, an accountant, a mortgage agent — good people who will pamper my clients.”

The biographical section adds that Villarreal “received her formal education at Ursiline College in Ohio and l’Université La Sorbonne in Paris; art and interior design were her main areas of concentration. She is a member and leader of the Legionnaires of Christ, which provides assistance to families with students studying abroad; and she served as president of the Pan American Round Table, a nonprofit woman’s organization dedicated to fostering mutual understanding among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere. A mother of three grown children, Zaida recently became a grandmother.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Mayor Gustavo Torres Salinas of Tampico presenting a gift to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling at a news conference held at the McAllen Country Club. The mayors agreed to work to improve business and commercial activity between their two cities. The above story is the first in a two-part series. Part Two, featuring the mayors of McAllen and Tampico, will be posted in our next edition.